A Hilly Half (The Georgia Half Marathon)

Finished another half on Sunday and it’s always such a thrill to be in those big races. I did 2:07:46, which put me 3511 (out of 9127) or the 1386th best female (out of 5114) or 125 out of 535 45-49 year old women. Not my greatest time, but considering the hilliness of the course and the warmer temperatures, I was pleased. I only walked twice and those walks were pretty brief (as well as uphill.)

Saturday was great fun. I left around 10 so I could have lunch with my buddy Mark, who I knew at Clemson. He and his wife have two great kids and in fact, the daughter reminds me of my daughter. If they weren’t both so dang inward, maybe they would actually enjoy each other. We went to the original Doc Chey’s where I had a nice spicy vegetarian noodle dish, while eating outside. A nice conversation about the movies of the past year, including the insight that the two most acclaimed movies of the year were both about old-time film making. (Also, do not get me started about the poor, horrible typography in “The Artist” which is a great movie, but they totally blew the type thing. FOR SHAME!)

The weirdest part of that visit: we got in the wrong Subaru. Someone parked their blue Subaru in front of his and we sat in it for a second before we realized we were in the wrong car. I wondered where the small bag of dog food came from.

Thank God for technology, which was the only way I managed to remember where my friend Martha lived. No idea how I survived before that. We then decided to head to the Expo and we foolishly figured driving would be just fine, with the St. Pat’s parade being over. After more than an hour, we managed to get into the parking deck to the Georgia World Congress Center. There was only 18K runners in this race and the Expo was two days, so it wasn’t until we passed the Auto Show, the dance competition and the Black Atlanta conference to get to the Expo that we realized what the traffic really was all about. (And let me add: four very distinct events. It was clear who was going to what event.)

The Expo was nuts. The very first event I ran, I left early to go to the Expo (for the Spinx Run Fest) and there were maybe eight tables. Maybe. That included the packet pickup. I was done with that Expo in about 10 minutes. (BTW, beautiful run, finishes in the AAA ballfield, worth doing.) The next year. someone picked up my number for me. The Thanksgiving Expo was solid, but again, not huge, totally manageable. I think it was in a hotel ballroom or something. I’d guess about 24 tables, maybe? There were about 8K runners in that event. The biggest expo I’d been to before that was the Bridge Run in Charleston. If I ever run that one again, I will so have my number sent to me. Good grief, the parking for that Expo was a complete nightmare. Imagine trying to find a place to park in downtown Charleston on a Friday afternoon for a race that has 40K people in it. It was a total mob scene. My poor crowd-adverse daughter was a total mess when we were done and I probably spent more time seeking a parking spot than actually at the Expo. (Still, I had fun when it was all over.) The Georgia Marathon Expo was huge. HUGE. Heck, even the Chobani truck was there handing out free cups. I bought two sweaty bands for my kid and a water belt to avoid having to jockey to get water from stations. The biggest surprise was that I also came home with an avocado. That was unexpected, but I guess the avocado people were ready to get rid of their stuff.

Proving that runners are completely insane, we woke at 4:15 am, as in in the morning, to go drive down to the center of Atlanta and then run 13.1 miles. In fact, there was much discussion amongst the friends as to whether we’d meet at 5:15, 5:30 or 5:45. The ironic thing was that they were all like “it’s only 15 minutes! C’mon!” Meeting at 5:30 got us downtown in great shape and we stretched and enjoyed the Jazzercise music blaring from the speakers. I’m sure most thought of it as “dance music” but every song played had a Jazz routine to go with it. I even demonstrated Rihanna’s “We Found Love” which if you’ve ever done it, let’s just say it’s a sassy routine. We finally creeped up to the start line and off we went!

I had heard that the Atlanta marathon was a hilly one, but I figured that was the last 13 miles. Certainly the first 13 miles were fairly flat. The Thanksgiving half was fairly flat, so this would be much the same, right? WRONG. Also deceiving: the chart showed ups and downs, but there were ups and downs WITHIN those ups and downs. Plus, to add to the challenge, there was an entire mile uphill starting at 9.22 AND the half ended up an uphill. OK, the last tenth was downhill. But the last couple of miles before that weren’t. I’ve never been so grateful to see signs that said “3/4 of a mile to go” “half a mile to go” sheesh!

I can’t say enough about the volunteers and the spectators for the race. The spectators may there for a special runner, but they cheer for everyone. Around mile 6, a very buoyant girl with a large sign ran up and down the street and eventually out in the road with the runners, cheering us on. Man, enthusiasm like that, how can you NOT run? There were even a few spots that I considered walking, but how could I with people cheering and saying “you look great!” Special touches like actually putting the medal around my neck instead of handing it to me made me feel like a winner. So, Atlanta Track Club, kudos, my friends KUDOS.

My only complaint about the volunteers is that they didn’t always have the right answer. We had two problems: finding our friends and getting back across the street to find the car. She led us in the wrong direction, which meant we probably walked an extra mile that we didn’t need to. (A cop working the race finally gave us the right answer.) 

As to finding your friends, if one of your friends says “we’ll meet at the finish line” tell them to try again. They move you so quickly down the finish line and into the park that it will be a huge challenge to meet up.

Still, I had so much fun I’m signed up for the Peachtree, if they let me in. More hills, heat and humidity are in my future. (Wait, I get that at home too. Well, maybe I’ll be properly trained then.)

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